Corporate Culture

Culture capital can positively drive financial performance

By October 15, 2014September 30th, 2017No Comments

As broadly defined, “Corporate culture is the way things are done around here,” says Janine Hills, founder and CEO of Vuma Reputation Management.

Hills believes it’s an organisation’s way of being, its personality, which is a reflection of its leaders’ values, beliefs and behaviours. “It is who you are as a business, and what you stand for. The way it was formed by current and previous founders, directors and leaders through policies, systems, processes, structures and procedures.”

And then comes along some brilliant, diverse employees that have the power to influence and enhance the current culture, transforming it into something much better and more functional, which is referred to as cultural capital.

“Cultural capital is the value placed on the way of being, which makes a huge difference in corporate performance, including financial performance and business impact that in turn, stimulate growth, engagement, and productivity,” Hills says.

In the book Corporate Culture and Performance written by Professor James Heskett and John Kotter in 1992, they argued strong corporate cultures that facilitate adaptation to a changing world, are associated with strong financial results and economic performance.

Through painstaking research at firms Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, ICI, Nissan, and First Chicago, including a quantitative study of the relationship between culture and performance in more than 200 companies, they describe how shared values and unwritten rules can profoundly enhance economic success or, conversely, lead to failure to adapt to changing markets and environments.

The authors trace the roots of both healthy and unhealthy cultures, and demonstrate how easily unhealthy cultures can emerge, which is characterised by arrogance, inward focus, and bureaucracy, features that undermine an organisation’s ability to adapt to change and perform.

They found that healthy cultures highly value employees, customers, and stakeholders, and encourage leadership and new visions of everyone in the firm.

Hills adds, “At Vuma, cultural capital comes in the form of our people’s performance. Our strategy is employing highly capable people that can function well in adapting markets, which has thus become the new frontier of our competitive advantage.”

When employees’ beliefs and ethical values align with business objectives, rapport and trust quickly ensue. “It’s like when Thando Ntsinde joined Vuma, we just knew she would be someone who harbours similar beliefs and ethical values as the rest of our team.”

The bond established between Vuma’s corporate team, helps to avoid conflicts, eases communication of roles and responsibilities, increases motivation levels, and helps to focus on task completion and performance.

Oftentimes, employees work harder to achieve organisational goals if they consider themselves to be part of an inspiring corporate culture. Ntsinde agrees, “Vuma provides meaningful work that makes me want to channel all my efforts into giving my best possible performance. However, Janine’s great leadership is the ultimate perk.”

Ntsinde moved around a lot when growing up due to her family’s career responsibilities, but this came at no cost. She says, “I manage to always go to private schools which were always packed with physical activities. This was fun for me as I learned about teamwork, to adapt to various circumstances, and to make change a part of me, a quality much needed in the 21st century.”

It was partaking in sports, public speaking and debating at school that gave her the confidence to pursue a focused career in communications. But it was the profoundness in knowing how important it is to build solid networks and ethical engagements that is the actual driving force behind Ntsinde.

After an internship at Grant Thornton, being event’s organiser at Sun International, studying honours in corporate communications at the University of Johannesburg, and a trip to Israel, she finally landed a post at Vuma as general office assistant in various functions of communications.

As the months past, Ntsinde quickly advanced to working in media relations, then finally early in July 2014, was promoted to account manager.

“What I actually wanted to be one day was a singer like Whitney Houston,” she chuckles. “But I early learned it’s not going to happen. My actual strength lies in the English language and I leverage that in all my work.”

What Vuma has taught her, are the intricate mechanics of media, how to watch the trends, learning new mediums and strategies, and how it all comes together for clients. “But most of all, Vuma provides the environment in which to grow, to learn more about myself, my goals, dreams and aspirations.”

Since money is always a limiting thing, Ntsinde is personally now focused more on providing for her child who is almost one year old. “This makes me more responsible in my work as I want my child to have a good life. I want to build a trust fund for him as I don’t want his school and university fees be a problem.”

Employees like Ntsinde are willing to blur work life and personal life and put their hearts and souls into their jobs. It is only fair that employers do the same, especially for women who try make it to the top while raising kids at the same time.

But how should employers proceed? Hills advises, “By offering flexitime, sometimes let them work from home, maybe also offer free childcare. It would depend though on the needs of the employee, the job and the circumstances. Most importantly, one should create an enabling environment that would work for all involved.”

Ntsinde is confident Vuma’s empowering culture is what will enable her to grow far beyond her expectations as, “I believe, it shows strength if you can stay at a company for longer than 10 years, which is the plan for now.”

Yes, she wants to have her own business one day, “However, I will be patient about it as I still have a lot to learn and am most grateful for everything I learn at Vuma. For now, I will continue to duplicate myself and do more here.”

Hills adds, “It’s employees like Thando Ntsinde working with engaged enthusiasm, who I consider cultural capital in its highest form, as she brings much value to the organisation and our team’s success. Her work contributes highly to our performance and ultimately our bottom line.”

Isn’t it also true that results like this can only be achieved when employers offer a contract to employees that elicits specific positive behaviours aligned with the organisation’s goals?

Hills agrees, “Securing engaged performance is sometimes about investing financially in employees through perks or pay hikes. However, it’s mostly about the organisation investing emotionally in its employees.”

“In exchange, employees make similar emotional investments, pouring efforts into their work and delivering superior performance. It’s about making their lives and work meaningful and inspiring.”

“Ultimately,” concludes Hills, “Cultural capital is about hiring the ‘right-fit’ people and motivating them to give you their hearts and minds.”



Leave a Reply